Article Archive by Jessica Hammer

October 3 2008

Never-ending Software Updates

by Jessica Hammer

A new version of Flash. Internet Explorer 8, Google Chrome, and a brand new Adobe Creative Suite! When it is all going to end?

If you’re like most office-bound professionals, you use the internet all day, for a myriad of tasks. Transferring files, viewing websites, and sharing data are part of our daily workflow, and when technologies don’t sync, it can seriously impact performance. I’m sure we’ve all had it happen; you send a file, but the receiving party can’t open it because they have an older version of the same software!
The issue is compounded when you add more complex programs, like Creative Suite Graphics programs, and also when you add multiple functionalities and programs. Having an outdated Java applet and Flash player 6 on an old version of Internet Explorer is paramount to rendering the site yourself with crayons! There’s no way you can view sites correctly.

Unfortunately, since technology updates usually bring improvements and upgrades, all we can do is embrace them and keep on upgrading. Most software will alert you when an upgrade is ready. I must stress how important it is to stay current with these changes. Setting some time every week to keep your computer up to speed will prevent a snowball effect later on. Or worse still, a computer stuck in 2004!

In contrast, many of us routinely use programs that cost hundreds of dollars that often involve a purchasing/invoicing/approval rigmarole to procure and upgrade.   Systems like MS Office, Quick Books, Creative Suite, are updated every few years, and may cost hundreds of dollars to replace. Adobe, for example, has let only 8 months lapse since CS3 and we are now faced with the launch of CS4.

Understandably, many companies and individuals can’t afford to keep up with this breakneck pace. But you should try to stay current, even if it means purchasing every second upgrade, or sticking to an ‘upgrade every 2 years’ policy. If budget and purchasing is a problem, keep management in the loop about expected updates, or add the anticipated cost into your budget early. Most companies announce upgrades a few months before launch, which may give you time to make the necessary calls and gain approvals. Check Adobe[], Microsoft[], Intuit’s[], Press Releases and Blogs periodically to stay informed.

Upgrades are here to stay, and they will doubtlessly keep coming at record speed. Doing your best to add upgrading into your weekly schedule will only benefit you and your workflow in the long run. So go ahead, check for updates!

July 30 2008

Web Design Trends and Inspiration

by Jessica Hammer

I am moved to write about design trends by this recent post by Nick La of Web Designer Wall. This well-researched list of 2008’s Design Trends mirrors many of its kind that gather and categorize the types of new styles that we see everyday on the internet. In an ever-changing online world, it is critical for Designers to keep up with the latest technology, news and design trends. Websites become dated in less than five years and we designers must keep pace or be left behind.

But what does that mean to our clients, most of whom do not troll the internet looking for inspiration every day? I do not expect any client to re-design every time a new trend appears, but I think it is crucial in choosing a look and feel to know what you are up against. Knowing where your ideas and tastes lie in the rainbow of website styles will help you gauge whether your new site will fit nicely into what users expect from modern web design, or alienate your users with its antiquation!

This is where a Design trend index comes in handy! The blog poster has scoured the internet, and cataloged their findings. The post is a snapshot of what is happening right now in web design. Whether or not you love every design, you will probably get some great ideas, and see how wide ranging these style trends are! Gathering styles that you like, or can relate to will also help in your re-design; to show your design firm where your tastes lie.

Even if you are not re-designing, you may get some great ideas for some simple updates that will bring your site up to today’s high standards. The least you will get out of researching current design trends will be a pleasurable stroll through beautiful and functional works of modern art!

July 11 2008

Design vs Marketing: Why Collaboration is Key

by Jessica Hammer

Good landing pages and e-mails can drive traffic, increase conversions, and promote branding. But these small, important snippets of your company promotion are a lot more work than they appear. The planning, targeting and design will provide fruitful rewards if they are approached in a well rounded and experienced manner.

Speaking as a designer, I am often tempted to jump right into a promotion, in an effort to make a beautiful creative off the bat. I want something striking, well laid out, and well, pretty!

However, what I often forget is the importance of closely collaborating with our Campaign Strategists, or Marketing team. They are the troops on the front line, the ones who are speaking with and studying, not only the client’s campaign every day, but general marketing trends. They have an up-close view on the client’s campaign, brand and other current promotion efforts. They also have updated knowledge on placement of elements, calls to action and effective headlines. Without all this important information, I cannot hope to make a creative that speaks to that unique client’s unique customer.

So although it forces me to bend my pretty design, add in content that destroys my white space and color buttons beyond my original plan, it is my job as a designer to resolve these issues, and work with a Marketer to make a creative that represents our client in the best, and most appealing way!

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